My beautiful children,
I’m writing this to you as you are on the verge of another new school year. I see the mixed feelings emerging, the trepidation, the curiosity and the little glimpses of excitement here and there.
Even though you’d never admit it, I think you’re ready to have some routine back in your lives. I know your summer with me has been far from perfect and I hope you can forgive me for being preoccupied with other things.
Gone are the innocent, sweet days of elementary school, as you venture into your junior year of high school and your second year of middle school. It feels like yesterday that I held tight to your little hands and brought you to your first Kindergarten classrooms, my heart experiencing the fluttering of letting go, just a little.
I entrusted you every day to educators, who would take care of your formal education, in the hope that they would also nurture your spirits and boundless curiosity and the unique human beings that you are..
Even though those years marked your educational beginnings in the eyes of society, your true education began the moment you were born.
You see, all the things you’re learning about at school, although important, are only a tiny part of the whole puzzle. You’re learning about the world through play, nature, music, art, questioning, pondering, experimenting and reading together to mention but a few, are all part of learning about life.
More importantly, becoming aware of and learning to relate to the other human beings that are inhabiting the space around you on our our beautiiul planet.
These are the things that really contribute to the people you will become. That is so much more important to me than the facts you’ve absorbed and the grades that have been earned and reflected on a piece of paper. Society values these things, but they are not the only ones that are important.
I’m blessed to have two smart, capable children, who do well in school.
But I am more blessed to have two children who question issues, who fiercely debate the rights and wrongs of our world. Who will reach out to a friend in need, write me an encouraging note, hold open doors for strangers, demonstrate again and again by your relentless questions that you are already true thinkers, in a much larger sense than an academic one.
You are already aware of the racism, sexism and inequality that exist in our world and you care deeply about becoming people who can change their generation and future generations for the better.
You are both capable of crying when you feel grief and talk about lost loved ones with no fear of judgement. I love that ability in you both. Being in touch with emotions, good and bad, is something that makes you an authentic person. It also means that you’ll always have something to offer to those who are hurting in some way.
Life has taught you about loss early on, but you demonstrate daily that you’ve used that loss to develop compassion for others, reflecting this in your encounters with those that are different in some way. You go out of your way to include and defend them, instead of letting them sit on the sidelines, ignored.
I see these qualities in both of you and I smile inside, because if you know this compassion, you’re already half way there to becoming a great person.
We live in a frantic, goal driven place and you’re constantly being pushed, to do more, to be more. Just remember that you are enough just the way you are. A GPA might be important to get into college, but it won’t count when it comes to character.
Experience has taught me that good character comes from practicing making good choices , doing the right thing even when no one knows or is looking. It’s called integrity and if you’re looking for a major, it would be a great place to start.
Travel is education too, it opens your heart and minds to the reality that we will never be finished learning in the true sense of the word.There is a whole world out there besides your own little corner, with cultures that are rich in history and art and people who may be very different from you. You’ve already been lucky enough to be exposed to different places and seen firsthand that not everyone lives with the privileges that are afforded to you. Practice gratitude.
Whatever you do with this year and your later lives, live with the goal of doing your best, but more importantly making a difference just by taking your place in the world. Reach out to the underdog, be gentle with your heart and be generous with your time. Serve others as well as yourselves.
Read books. This is something you both do already, but never stop. Books are a journey and experience that will grow your mind and spirit. Breathe them in and challenge yourselves with the ones that are difficult to read. You’ll discover so many little nuggets of knowledge and wisdom from exposing yourselves to a wide repertoire of books. Learn how to write, discovering delicious new words and how to manipulate them into a form of art as you learn.
There are measurable outcomes of knowledge; the ones that teach you to set goals and practice self-discipline. But there is also nature, art, music, and relationship with our fellow human beings, service to others, compassion, and all the other experiences that can’t be measured on a piece of paper with a red pen.
You’re always going to be learning, changing, growing, making mistakes, absorbing and improving and practicing life. How you handle these challenges will help define who you’ll eventually become.
I’m much more interested in seeing you both find your passions in life and doing what makes you happy. You won’t know what these are yet and you’ll change your mind a thousand times over the next few years.Be patient with yourselves, because, despite what your educators are telling you, there is time. Life does not come with a defined timetable of where you should be and when. Pay attention to your inner voice and of course, your heart.
So as you venture out into another academic year, I’m proud of you both already.
I’m proud that you’ve both learned early that grades are important yes, that doing your best is something you should always aim for, but that it’s only a tiny piece of the puzzle that is life.
Know that asking questions and disagreeing with something you’re being taught, is expressing intelligence, not defiance. As long as you always do it in a respectful way.
Make friends that make you feel good about yourself, even if you only have a few. It’s better than having many that don’t make you feel important and special, just as you are. Make choices that make you feel good and do the right thing, even if others around you are choosing otherwise. Make mistakes (because you will) but learn from them. It will give you practice in using your instincts.
Most of all, practice kindness. Stand up for the underdog. Be compassionate to the people who might treat you badly. Don’t be walked over, but keep in mind that sometimes hurting people, hurt people.
Life is out there waiting to be lived. Keep your minds and hearts open to the smorgasbord of choices, experiences and lessons. Learn the facts, but live the knowledge. Remember to include laughter in everything you do. This is only the beginning.
I believe in both of you.
I’ll be here too, when the surge if emotions and confusion that emerges in adolescence become just too much to bear. I promise to be quietly waiting on the sidelines, your biggest cheerleader, as you stretch your wings and learn to fly.
Lastly, never forget that I love you the mostest. (And that sometimes, it’s quite alright to make up words).